How to celebrate Philippine Independence Day with your kids
Philippine Independence Day is celebrated every June 12th. It is a national holiday that commemorates the day when Filipinos broke free from three centuries of Spanish rule.
Philippine Independence from Spanish Rule
From 1565 to 1898, the Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards. During this time, Filipinos were treated unjustly and discriminated against – they were not given equal rights and opportunities. No Filipino was allowed to hold position in higher offices. Not everyone was given access to education. Many were oppressed and forced to work without pay. They did not even have the freedom to buy anything they wanted to buy. They were like strangers in their own country. Imagine not being able to do whatever you want in your own home and instead being told what you should and should not do.
That is why our heroes fought hard to end the Spanish regime and attain the freedom the Philippines rightfully deserved. After almost 350 years of being colonized by Spain, on June 12, 1898, the Philippine flag was finally raised in Cavite, signaling the independence of the country.
FUN ACTIVITY: ask your Lolo or Lola if they still have old 5 peso bill and see how the declaration of independence was featured there.
Philippine Independence from American Rule
Sadly, that so-called liberty was short-lived because not long after the declaration of independence from Spain, the Philippines was sold to the Americans under the Treaty of Paris. There was resistance from Filipino rebel groups but they were suppressed by American forces in what was known as the Philippine-American war. American control continued until, then US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Tydings McDuffie Act in 1935. This decreed that the Philippines is to become an independent nation effective July 4, 1946.
BUT, while the Philippines was under a Commonwealth Government, still controlled by the Americans, and with the Filipinos already looking forward to their independence day, World War II broke out and the Japanese invasion began. Japanese occupation of the Philippines started in 1942 and ended in 1945. This meant more years of bloodshed for the Filipino patriots in their already war-torn country.
When the war finally ended, the Philippines regained its freedom and was declared an independent republic on July 4, 1946. Every year for 20 years, Philippine Independence Day was celebrated on the 4th of July. It was only in 1962 when President Diosdado Macapagal changed it back to June 12. The late president believed that true liberty begins when one country starts asserting and exercising its right to freedom. In the words of President Macapagal, “Freedom is the inherent right of every nation. The national right to liberty does not derive from a grant or recognition by another but is the God-given and natural attribute of every people”. In the case of the Philippines, this was when President Emilio Aguinaldo declared our country independent. Hence, officially, on June 12, 1898, the Philippines became the first free and united nation in colonial Asia.
How is Independence Day Celebrated in the Philippines?
In the Philippines, Independence Day is a non-working holiday. Students and most employees are not required to go to school or work. On this day, the President holds a ceremony with a military parade and a 21-gun salute. Filipino food are showcased in festivals and a marathon of Filipino history-based movies are shown. Usually, replicas or miniature versions of the Philippine flag are hung on the streets or displayed in vehicles. Some schools hold their own Independence Day programs that involve students wearing costumes or preparing skits that retell the story of our heroes’ fight for freedom.
How is Independence Day Celebrated around the World?
Filipinos across the globe are not exempted from celebrating Independence Day. In fact, in some cities, Filipino communities host Independence Day events in public venues to promote Filipino culture. Celebrations around the world vary from simple flag-raising ceremonies and parades to fun and festive activities that include street fairs, food festivals, musical or cultural shows, talent shows, and beauty pageants. It is a day when Filipinos gather to celebrate and honor their motherland.
In New York City, a Philippine Independence Day celebration is scheduled on the first Sunday of June every year. This happens along Madison Avenue and is watched by Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. The highlight of this annual event are the parade, the street fair, and the cultural show. The celebration ends with a Philippine Independence Ball. This event in New York City is the biggest Independence Day celebration outside the Philippines and also serves as a fund-raising campaign for charity programs in the Philippines and the United States.
In Canada, Filipino-Canadians commemorate Independence Day with a two-day celebration that involves a traditional flag raising ceremony, a dance, music and entertainment show, games and raffle promos, and an exhibit of Filipino cuisine and products.
San Francisco, USA, which has one of the biggest Filipino communities in the world, holds an Independence Day program in Union Square where there are cultural performances, and live concerts from Filipino artists. A Filipino-themed marketplace is set up to showcase Filipino food and merchandise.
Independence Day in Paris is usually celebrated in a more formal way that commences with a flag raising ceremony and is culminated with a reception dinner hosted for diplomats and graced by Filipino performers. This event is also a platform to promote the Philippines to potential investors.
How to Celebrate Philippine Independence Day with your kids
1. Create a Philippine Flag
The Philippine flag has a history as rich as our own culture. It goes deeper than being an “identifier” for our country because it represents heroism, bravery, sacrifice, selflessness, independence, unity, and all that make up the independent nation that we have today. Explain the symbolisms behind the flag to help kids understand the history of their roots.
Did you know that our Philippine flag evolved from a series of different versions?
Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros carried a red flag bearing the letters KKK, which stand for Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan). The color red symbolizes the Katipuneros’ blood and courage in fighting for the country’s freedom. Andres Bonifacio’s personal flag had a white sun above the letters KKK.
In 1896, the Flag of the Victorious (Bandila ng Matagumpay), a red flag with a white triangle on the left side, was used by Gen. Pio del Pilar, the hero of Makati. The flag bears the initials K on the three corners surrounding an eight-rayed sun, which represents the eight provinces put under martial law by the Spanish government.
Another notable version of the flag is the one used by Gen. Gregorio del Pilar. It is characterized by three colors: red, which is the color of the Katipunan, spreading in the upper half, black, which was the color of another version carried by Gen. Llanera of Bulacan, in the lower half, and a blue triangle on the left side, representing the Philippines’ solidarity with Cuba, another colony of Spain.
In March 1897, the first official flag of the revolutionary government was born. It bears a white sun with eight rays and was called the “Sun of Liberty” flag. The sun replaced the initials KKK because, according to Aguinaldo, the desire for freedom was that of the Filipinos as a whole and not only of the Katipuneros.
As an official flag for the first Philippine republic, the Sun and Stars flag was designed by Emilio Aguinaldo. This is the flag that was raised during the proclamation of independence on June 12, 1898. The tri-color flag (blue, red, and white) that has the symbols of the sun and three stars became what is currently known as the Philippine flag. The white triangle on the left is a symbol of equality; blue represents peace, truth, and justice; red stands for courage and patriotism. The eight-rayed sun symbolizes the eight provinces that revolted against the Spaniards, and the three stars represent the three main islands of the Philippine archipelago: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
2. Learn the Philippine National Anthem
The Philippine National Anthem has a beautiful melody and lyrics. It honors the country, speaks of our triumphant pursuit of liberty, and inspires love for country. Make your kids learn the song and help them understand the message behind it.
3. Prepare an OPM Playlist
Music, being a universal language, is another good way to spark patriotism in children. Music speaks to every soul no matter what age. Create a playlist of Original Pilipino Music (OPM) that kids can listen to. Not only will they learn to appreciate Filipino music, but also the Filipino language.
4. Watch a movie about Philippine history
Movies are powerful storytellers and movie-watching is one of the best ways to learn about the events that transpired in our history. Here are some examples of Filipino movies that depict colonial or war stories:
- Jose Rizal
- Heneral Luna
- Goryo ang Batang Heneral
- Dekada ‘70
- Bonifacio: Ang Uang Presidente
- El Presidente
- Quezon’s Game
- Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis
5. Make a Filipino Dish
Foodie or not, this should be an interesting and fun activity to do to celebrate Philippine Independence Day. To make it more exciting, you can do a cook off! Surely, there are a lot of easy Filipino dishes that you can try at home like adobo, sinigang, pancit, or lumpia.
6. Put together a Philippine National Costume
Kids love to dress up! Give them an avenue to channel their inner fashion designer by asking them to put together a Philippine National Costume. Let them improvise and be resourceful in making their own barong and baro’t-saya. To show off their creative ensemble, organize an Independence Day parade. This can be a communal event if you live in a big Filipino community, or you can do it in the comfort of your own home.
Philippine Independence Day is not just a holiday but a monumental event that deserves to be celebrated and remembered because it is a product of centuries of bloodshed and sacrifice. There are numerous ways to commemorate this day but there is probably nothing better than constantly trying to be in touch with our roots and making ourselves worthy of the liberty we inherited from our fallen heroes.
Start your children young and instill in them a sense of pride, nationalism, and patriotism. We recommend these books to help children develop a deeper appreciation for Philippine history:
- The Chair King
- Seryeng Batang Historyador (a series)
- Seryeng Bayani
- Francisco the Filipino
- Si Ambongan
- What Kids Should Know About Andres & the Katipunan
- Ang Kaibigan Kong si Mabini
- Halo-Halo Histories
- Bayani Book Series
And what better way for them to unlock their curiosity by helping them write their own Filipino Story? Check out our My Filipino Story Activity Book for kids 8-12 years old. Filled with journal prompts, family interview questions, and pops of Filipino trivia, you and your whole family will enjoy uncovering the parts of you that make you Filipino.
Available worldwide on Amazon.